The Johnson Utilities Newsletter: A Poor Substitute for the Facts
A recent Johnson Utilities newsletter published statements made by the law firm of Jennings, Haug and Cunningham. These lawyers are paid by a large real estate investment company to oppose the Florence Copper Project. Their letter is written to serve the interests of their clients only, and is not part of the formal administrative review process currently underway at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
Unfortunately, the tactics used by these lawyers and echoed by Johnson Utilities are deceptive to the local community. Florence Copper will continue to be a reliable source of facts for people interested in the project. We will remain committed to working with state and federal regulators, respond to agency requirements, and follow the process set out in law. The rigorous state and federal regulatory review processes are ongoing, but we are nearing the final permitting stages for a Production Test Facility.
What’s important to remember:We cannot and will not operate unless these state and federal agencies determine that it can be done to the highest environmental regulatory standards.
In order to operate our test facility, we need to complete the regulatory process:
Federal Permit – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
We are currently awaiting a finalized Underground Injection Control permit (UIC) from the EPA.
Once issued, the final UIC is subject to a 30-day appeal period.
The draft UIC was already subject to a 129-day public comment period, which included a public hearing held in Florence on Jan. 22, 2015. The EPA assessed the Florence Copper in-situ copper recovery proposal for nearly four years before issuing the draft UIC.
State Permit – Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ)
We anticipate that ADEQ will announce the start of the public comment period on our amended Temporary Aquifer Protection Permit (APP) in the near future. Following ADEQ’s issuance of the amended permit, ADEQ will host a public hearing in Florence early in 2016; however, ADEQ will determine the timeline for this process. This public comment process will be limited to five specific issues, two concern submission of updated information and three involve technical issues relating primarily to monitoring.
ADEQ issued an APP to Florence Copper in July 2013 after an extensive public comment period that included a public hearing in Florence.
Opponents of the project including Johnson Utilities immediately challenged this permit in state court and through the administrative hearing process. To date, these efforts have been largely unsuccessful.
After a 34-day hearing, an administrative law judge determined that ADEQ had met the vast majority of its legal obligations under the Aquifer Protection Program, and upheld all of the provisions in the permit relating to Florence Copper’s proposed mining operations and process. The judge also identified five items that she believed required further consideration. Two items required Florence Copper to resubmit historical information and an updated attachment to its application, and three items required ADEQ to reconsider the environmental monitoring required by the permit. Because of the judge’s findings, the Water Quality Appeals Board remanded the permit to ADEQ for review of those items.
The upcoming public comment for the project’s APP will be limited to these five items. The Water Quality Appeals Board did not require ADEQ to re-visit the entire permit. Keep in mind, all of the other issues — 99 issues in total — raised during the appeal of the permit were reviewed and rejected by the judge. The Water Quality Appeals Board ruling closed any right of appeal on these issues.
We will keep you up-to-date on our progress.
We will keep you informed about the details of the public comment period for our state permit. We will also inform you as soon as our final federal permit is issued.
We are still on track to open an in-situ copper recovery facility thanks to your support and participation in the regulatory review process. The state and federal decision-makers who are tasked with protecting the environment will determine whether this project can safely operate in Florence. Your patience is appreciated as we continue to work through the processes required by law.
It’s no surprise that Johnson Utilities and Southwest Value Partners choose to engage in these kinds of tactics when the facts don’t support their position. We expect that these attacks will grow more desperate as we move closer to opening the test facility.
If you’d like to learn more about the project or discuss the permits in more detail, please stop by the Florence Copper Community Center on Main Street anytime. The public is also welcome to join our weekly Coffee Club on Thursdays at 10 AM to discuss the project and the benefits it can provide to the area for all residents. Let’s keep the conversation going using reliable and accurate information.